The unteachable president

The unteachable president
Credit: Jon McNaughton

Barack Obama told the U.N.’s General Assembly on Monday he’s concerned that “dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world.” It’s nice of the president to notice, just don’t expect him to do much about it.

Recall that it wasn’t long ago that Mr. Obama took a sunnier view of world affairs. The tide of war was receding. Al Qaeda was on a path to defeat. ISIS was “a jayvee team” in “Lakers uniforms.” Iraq was an Obama administration success story. Bashar Assad’s days were numbered. The Arab Spring was a rejoinder to, rather than an opportunity for, Islamist violence. The intervention in Libya was vindication for the “lead from behind” approach to intervention. The reset with Russia was a success, a position he maintained as late as September 2013. In Latin America, the “trend lines are good.”

“Overall,” as he told Tom Friedman in August 2014 — shortly after ISIS had seized control of Mosul and as Vladimir Putin was muscling his way into eastern Ukraine — “I think there’s still cause for optimism.”

It’s a remarkable record of prediction. One hundred percent wrong. The professor president who loves to talk about teachable moments is himself unteachable. Why is that?

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